The first live video conference between Canadian MPs and members of the Knesset in Israel took place March 20, with cybersecurity, trade and other areas of common interest on the agenda.
A video parley hooking up Ottawa with Jerusalem will take place quarterly in an effort to further explore binational interests and maintain open channels, said Michael Levitt, Liberal MP for York Centre.
Levitt and fellow Liberal Deb Schulte (King-Vaughan) took part from Ottawa in the inaugural session, trading information with MKs Anat Berko of the Likud Party and Yoel Hasson of the Zionist Union party in Jerusalem. Joining the Canadians was a representative from Israel’s embassy in Ottawa.
Conservative and NDP MPs had to bow out at the last minute.
The four parliamentarians spent 30 minutes discussing “a wide range of topics,” but they focused mainly on trade and cybersecurity, Levitt told The CJN.
The idea is to create dialogue between MPs and MKs, Levitt said. There was “a focus on areas of common interest and shared values, and items we can move forward. These sort of initiatives can really pay dividends.”
Connecting Canadian and Israeli parliamentarians grew out of the activities of the Canada-Israel Parliamentary Group, which Levitt co-chairs, and its counterpart in Israel, one of many inter-parliamentary friendship groups the Knesset runs.
The one linking Israel with Canada is chaired by Berko and Hasson.
“We just want to start having discussions between parliamentarians,” said Levitt. “When you do that, you tap into a whole different resource.”
The first conversation “was a great success. We all felt this was a really positive step,” Levitt said.
Future conferences will further explore co-operation in cybersecurity, he noted.
“Israel is a world leader on cybersecutity. There’s a lot of interest on both sides. We know there’s a great amount of respect for the work the Israelis have done in this area,” Levitt said.
Berko, he noted, is a criminologist and an expert in the area. “We’re going to see channels open and lots of further discussion.”
Levitt said he was off to Washington, D.C., from March 26 to 28 to attend the annual policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which brings together dozens of lawmakers from around the world, including Canada and Israel.
In April, he said, he’ll be in New York for meetings of the World Jewish Congress, which, along with the Knesset, supports the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians.
Finally, Levitt expects that a group of MKs will visit Canada sometime this fall.